Montes de María Chocolate, is an initiative that seeks to contribute to the improvement of the educational quality of the region, from the transformation of the cocoa bean into chocolate and derivatives, turning students into protagonists and central axis of the process.
They participated in the RECON call and were finalists in the category of “Culture of Peace and Human Rights”. As recognition they received seed capital from the Presidential Council for Human Rights.
Its creator, Pedro Meza, is our social entrepreneur of the week and told us about his project.
REC: Who is Pedro Meza?
Pedro Meza: I am a dreamer, the son of a land that is betting on moving forward to overcome violence and rebuild the social fabric. I am a chemical engineer with a master’s degree in environmental engineering, and I hold a doctorate in agricultural sciences at the University of La Salle.
REC: What does Chocolates Montes de María do and how does it come about?
P.M: Through the project we make social appropriation of knowledge, taking advantage of cocoa in the region, which is not yet giving added value. We take cocoa as a teaching strategy; through the grain students apply the knowledge acquired in the classroom.
Chocolates Montes de María was born from a prospective analysis that was made in the region, where it was suggested that if traditional teaching continued, without boosting entrepreneurship and innovation, the region would be poorer, the quality of education would go down and there would be no sources of employment.
In order to improve this discouraging panorama the project is born, addressing two fronts, the first one the educational regarding how through the processing of the cocoa bean one can learn natural sciences, critical reading and quantitative reasoning, improving the educational quality and the teaching processes in the region; and the second one, facing the generation of employment, the idea being how to build a large-scale chocolate plant, to benefit students and the peasant population, who would be paid a higher value for the kilo of cocoa, promoting fair trade and shared value.
REC: What is the added value that you are giving to Cocoa?
P.M: Currently the cacao is bought by the big companies from the farmers and they pay the kilo at $ 4,000 – $ 5,000, the idea is to buy it at a fair price, where the farmer earns twice as much.
REC: How many people are involved in the project?
P.M: We are 10 people coordinating and advising, involving 100 students and 15 farmers on the farm that we took as a pilot to obtain cocoa, the idea is that with the results we can scale it and benefit a larger population.
REC: What production capacity do you have?
P.M: We currently have two machines that process 4 kilos per day, and we have just acquired new machines with which we can process 30 kilos in three days, which will allow us to obtain 200 bars of chocolate in this period of time.
REC: How do you market chocolate?
P.M: We are not marketing it yet. We will start this year because we needed machinery for the production of bars, that just came from China and we are preparing to start selling.
On August 18 there is a business fair, the idea is to have the first batch for this day. Currently we have the site to assemble the equipment and the warehouse, we are looking for a more central site, in the main square of San Jacinto, to have a more visible and visited warehouse.
REC: What types of chocolate do you make?
P.M: We have two types, one at 70% cocoa, it is a bit bitter, and another at 40% that is sweeter. We are also innovating with different recipes based on other products of the region, this is how we have chocolates with ñame, panela and sesame candy.
The best result has been chocolate with sweet ñame, this arises as a result of a crisis in the region where there was overproduction of ñame and they did not know what to do with so much product. The students suggested extracting the sweet from the ñame and adding it. It was presented at a fair and had great acceptance.
REC: Who finances the project or where do the resources come from?
PM: I’m part of the Proexcelencia Foundation that has been working in the region for several years. We prepare students for the presentation of 11 knowledge tests and admission exams to public universities. With the sales of those services, Montes de María Chocolates is financed. We also receive donations made by graduates that have been prepared by the foundation as retribution and in sense of belonging to the region.
The idea is that when we start marketing chocolate bars, our first customers are the graduates who have supported us, they will send the product and they will make a symbolic and voluntary contribution.
Last year the Mayor of San Jacinto, through the Secretary of Youth, heard about the project and financed the trip to Bogota to introduce ourselves to the Expo Science Technology Expo 2017 fair, and this year again we will have a stand with the project.
REC: How much will the chocolate bar cost?
P.M: They are 50Gr bars with a price between $ 5,000 – $ 6,000, which leave us a potential profit margin of between 50% and 60%, to re-invest in buying more machinery.
The new component that we are implementing is packages woven by the craftsmen of San Jacinto, the idea with them is to improve their income because they do not receive a fair wage for their work.
REC: What do you dream happens with Chocolates Montes de María?
P.M: Watch young people enter higher education and have them graduate. In the same way I dream of seeing the brand positioned at a national and international level with a high quality product; dream of having offices in different cities of the country.
Another dream is to generate eco-tourism and agro-tourism around the project. We are an hour and a half from Cartagena and we want to awaken the interest of the tourists that arrive there to have them visit the farm and the whole production process.
REC: Did you participate in RECON?
P.M: Very much, we will always be grateful for opening the doors, for believing in us and recognizing the social impact.
As a result of the visibility of RECON, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Bolívar contacted us, so in August we will have a stand to promote the project and create a cocoa and chocolate route in the Montes de María to boost tourism in the region.
REC: What advice would you give to other social entrepreneurs?
P.M: Do not lose heart, you will always find obstacles, but there are also people willing to offer their hand. Being filled with strength, perseverance, patience and a lot of passion, it is important that you believe that your ideas are going to bear fruit.
REC: What is Social Entrepreneurship for you?
P.M: It is to take an idea, materialize it with the support of the community and contribute to solving a problem. It is to get the community empowered and be aware that when there is a problem everyone can contribute and participate to improve the quality of life.
Be encouraged to contribute to the construction of a different future and opportunities! Learn more about Montes de María Chocolates: